U.S. lawmakers on Thursday will consider legislation that would allow the federal government to override state objections to establishing corridors for new electricity transmission lines.
The draft proposal from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee would give states one year to provide sites for high-priority national transmission projects.
If states do not decide on a location for a proposed transmission line or reject the development, then the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be able to step in.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to double renewable energy production in three years. Obama also wants to generate 10 percent of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2012 and 25 percent by 2025.
To meet these goals, the U.S. grid must be upgraded and expanded to deliver power generated from wind turbines and solar panels from remote locations to urban populations.
The Senate panel plans to vote on the proposal next week.
The draft grid measure, if approved, would be folded into a comprehensive energy bill the committee is now debating. In addition to modernizing the electric grid, the bill will also address a national renewable electricity standard, strengthening appliance efficiency standards and clean energy investments.
FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff told a Senate committee last month that he believed a federal override was necessary if a state blocks a power line that is in the national interest.
Congress had given FERC authority to site and permit electric transmission lines crossing state borders within important corridors with grid congestion. But a federal court ruled FERC cannot use this authority if a state denies a transmission project in a timely manner.
The committee will hold hearings and votes on various aspects of the energy package over the next few weeks, with a goal of approving the legislation by the Memorial Day recess.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)